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Follow Me: A Novel Hardcover – April 22, 2009

3.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A granddaughter sifts through her grandmother's rich and mysterious life in Pulitzer finalist Scott's latest. As a teenager in 1946, Sally Werner experiences something between rape and seduction at the hands of her cousin, resulting in a baby, family shame and her running away. Each time Sally feels her past catching up with her, she finds a new town and assumes a new identity, eventually graduating from taking the charity—and more—of others to supporting herself. A doomed love affair, a cat and mouse chase with the brutal father of a second child, and a longing for safety and freedom keep Sally moving until she settles down and her daughter, Penelope, inherits her restless energy. As the novel, and Sally's life, draws to a close, we get a final look at this remarkable woman through the eyes of her granddaughter, also named Sally, and through the younger Sally's once absent father, Abe. A retelling of the archetypal American journey from a female perspective, this rendering of the perils and triumphs facing women is imbued with a questing spirit. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Scott, her literary gifts recognized with MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, is profoundly attuned to humankind’s endless quest to channel life’s wildness. In this enrapturing saga of an invincible woman who transforms herself the way a landscape changes with the seasons, Scott draws on a matrix of mythic themes and pastoral sensibilities to explore age-old conflicts between willfulness and powers beyond our control. Sally Werner, the daughter of harshly religious German immigrants, is a lovely, hardworking 16-year-old in 1946 in rural Pennsylvania. She can’t resist her war-veteran cousin’s offer of a motorcycle ride, or ward off his advances, but she does have the mettle to leave her newborn son and run away to seek her fortune. Dazzling descriptions are interrupted by heart-revving suspense as Sally finds refuge and trouble in struggling small towns, charming people with her glorious singing and fleeing whenever danger looms. As is her wont, Scott bends time as Sally’s granddaughter pieces together her family’s fractured history of violent passion and indelible guilt helplessly enacted in a place of misery, beauty, and mystery. --Donna Seaman

Read an Excerpt
Read the first chapter of Joanna Scott's Follow Me [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (April 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316051659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316051651
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,347,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a writer, I read a lot, always looking for new styles and interesting turns of phrase. Joanna Scott has become my new favorite author. I quickly ran through her book, Follow Me, in a week. I couldn't put it down and wanted to enjoy every word of this consuming, at once bitter and sweet, story that spans several generations of women. Mistaken identities, family complications, love, and a sense of place dominate the books intertwining themes. At points I loved and hated all of the main characters, a sign that Joanna Scott is capable of creating personalities that are so true to life that I have found myself thinking about them as if they are my neighbors and friends.

Even more lovely and intriguing than the plot twists and turns, Joanna Scott uses language that made me realize that English can be just as beautiful as any romance language. Her poignant sentiments are dramatic without being saccharin. For example, early on in the book one of the characters runs away from her life and family after a traumatic event. "But still she runs. Running, running, running. How many lives start over this way, by putting one foot in front of the other?"

I considered how many of us today must start over because our investments have decreased so dramatically in value or because we, or someone in our family, lost a job. Starting over is frightening and painful. And yet, Joanna Scott is right: starting over is simply putting one foot in front of the other in a different direction. What I find so inspiring about Follow Me is that its characters are not afraid to start over. Indeed, they find it almost impossible to not immediately start over when life doesn't go their way. A lesson that at least bears consideration, if not emulation, by all of us.
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Format: Hardcover
Joanna Scott's book gives us a story told mainly by Sally Bliss, a granddaughter of Sally Werner aka Mole aka Bliss. It is essentially a recounting of Sally Werner's life, gathered from what she told her granddaughter and what Sally Bliss was also told by her father via recorded cassettes. In 1946 rural Pennsylvania, 16-year-old Sally Werner lets herself be taken for a ride on her cousin Daniel Werner's motorcycle. The enthralling ride, followed by what Sally thought was innocent but exhilarating flirting and kissing, ends in Daniel raping (in my opinion) Sally. She then is left carrying his baby and with guilt imposed upon her by her family that she was the one who tricked Daniel and made him commit that sinful act. Sally proceeds to deliver a baby boy, to abandon him on the kitchen table in her parent's house and to run away in pursuit of a new life. The fruits of that pursuit don't always turn out what Sally might have wanted but her optimism for life and belief in destiny help her along the way to live an amazing, sometimes tragic, sometimes happy, but never mundane, life.
Admittedly, Follow Me is a little slow at the beginning and somewhat difficult to get into, but I implore you to keep reading because it gets better and better with each page. The style of Ms. Scott's writing is very distinct and present from the first page. Her use of verbs creating stand-alone sentences makes it seem that it is a dream we're reading about, an urgent dream, sometimes a nightmare, from which Sally Werner wants to run away. It's also like Tuskee River flowing north and outlining Sally's journey through life. This writing is very intriguing and it kept me wanting to read more until I became absorbed by the book and couldn't stop even if I wanted to, which I didn't.
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Format: Hardcover
Sally Werner, a Pennsylvania farm girl, decides to throw caution to the wind and take a ride on her cousin's motorcycle. This choice will change her life forever. A teenager mother in 1946, she abandons her baby boy with her family and runs away to start a new life only a few miles away. Sally runs to escape the people she feels judges her for her mistakes. Yet the unfortunate nature of her life is that she always feels like she has to run away and start over again. Most of the time, this is the result of her own feelings of threat and failure. With each new place that Sally runs to, she adopts a new name, a name she feels will change her fortune and reflects something she has left behind or wishes to be.

Along the way Sally has another child, a daughter named Penelope. As Sally runs, so too does Penelope until Penelope meets auburn haired Abe and falls in love. Sally's story is told by her namesake and granddaughter, the child of Penelope and Abe. Towards the end of the book, the shocking family `secret' is revealed by Sally and drives Abe away.

Scott has a beautiful way with words. The imagery she uses to describe the world around Sally invokes a clear picture of the trickling Tuskee River and the small, rural Pennsylvania towns Sally hops to and from. There are times when Sally expresses a self-doubt and detachment that I have felt many times. I can see a lot of myself in Sally, especially in the way that she regards the world as a struggling outsider looking in, always waiting for her moment to feel connected. Sally's internal dynamic is interesting as well because she is a contradicting mixture of strong and assured, but also weak and afraid.
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